5 Holiday Shopping Predictions & Recommendations for 2021

Women in masks holding gifts while Christmas shopping

The pandemic greatly influenced celebrations and holiday shopping in 2020, but with normalcy on the horizon there are different 2021 holiday predictions that retailers should consider.

Last year, the Covid-19 pandemic led to a decrease in holiday social gatherings. Although there were less family holiday celebrations and religious services, traditions such as decorating, gifts and baking/cooking still remained popular.

A national survey of over 500 American consumers done by Explorer Research provides holiday shopper insights from 2020. By looking at these holiday insights from 2020, we can make educated 2021 holiday shopping predictions that can help retailers plan for this holiday season.

1. Earlier Holiday Planning and Shopping

With constantly changing safety guidelines and uncertainty, the holiday planning for decorating, gifting, events and religious services in 2020 were done much more last minute.

As vaccination rates climb and previous social distancing guidelines dissolve, it is likely that excitement for holiday gatherings will occur and planning will take place earlier.

Recommendation: As consumers are expected to start their holiday shopping earlier, ensure that all online and in-store holiday inspiration happens prior to Black Friday.

Recommendation: Offer discounts and promotions that motivate customers to shop early and often.

Recommendation: Showcase items and inspiration that speaks to hosting and attending holiday events.

Person writing things down on laptop with Santa hat

2. Larger/More Holiday Celebrations

The 2020 Holiday period was defined by a decline in social activities such as in-person parties, dinners, and celebrations. Surveys showed that there was a 10% decline from 2019 to 2020 in people having family over for celebrations and having holiday parties. Hosting a holiday dinner also saw a 13% decline in participation last year.

Predictions for 2021 include the resurgence of in-person gatherings. These holiday get-togethers are expected to be larger and come in greater numbers than they did in 2020.

Recommendation: Recipe/meal planning may happen earlier in 2021 so promotion timing may need to move earlier.

Recommendation: Consider offering promotions on items in larger quantities and advertise items in bulk packaging.

Group of people in santa hats doing a cheers with champagne flutes and sparklers

3. Stronger In-store Shopping for Retailers

This 2021 holiday shopping season is virtually guaranteed to have greater in-store retail sales than what occurred last year. 2020 unemployment levels likely impacted holiday spending, but stimulus packages garner more promising 2021 holiday sales predictions.

62% of shoppers buy more premium food and beverage products during the holidays. This means that areas such as sampling, recipes, prepared items, signage and demos would improve holiday grocery shopping. These holiday display ideas can be quickly and easily tested for validation through virtual merchandising tools. Omnichannel options like buy online pick up in store and curbside pickup are also expected to continue increasing year over year.

Recommendation: Use greater in-store traffic as an opportunity to showcase premium products, holiday themed products and an enhanced in-store experience.

Recommendation: Ensure there is an adequate amount of signage and demos in-store because they are highly desired by consumers.

Recommendation: Although in-store shopping should return to near pre-pandemic levels, omnichannel options still should be prioritized.

Couple on a mall escalator shopping during Christmas time

4. Online Shopping will still be Heavy

In 2020, over half of holiday shopping was done online. There was an +21 ppt increase in online shopping overall and +19 ppt increase in online grocery shopping. Although some traffic is expected to return in-store, this increase in online shopping is expected to continue for the long haul.

Online retail shopping experiences provided convenience and price comparison that consumers plan to continue taking part in. Apart from online sales, shopping online also plays a role for inspiration around recipes, gift guides and decorating.

Recommendation: For online website promotion, incorporate holiday ideas/gift guides and other inspiration for recipes, decorating, and activities.

Recommendation: Content should be heavy from Thanksgiving to early December when shoppers are planning and looking for inspiration. Sales should be more of the focus as planning shifts to buying in November.

Person online shopping for Christmas

5. New Year’s Resolutions may shift

Traditionally, New Year’s Resolutions stay fairly unchanged with top resolutions being related to health, weight loss or saving money. The Covid-19 pandemic may result in a slight change in 2021 new year's resolutions because it altered what many people viewed as their top priorities.

Considering the impact of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 new year's resolutions will likely include wanting to spend more time with family/friends and possibly a shift to vegetarian/eating more vegetables.

Recommendation: Focus messaging on health or wellness benefits, as opposed to weight loss.

Recommendation: Emphasize how products or services can be enjoyed with friends and family.

New year new health sign with fruit and weights around it

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    1. […] The holiday season is fast approaching and this year is unlike many others. Consumers are battling record high inflation, persisting supply chain issues, a labor shortage, increased gas prices and continued concerns about COVID-19. These conditions have created some very different expectations than last year's 2021 holiday shopping predictions. […]

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